The 39-m diameter ELT will be the next major step in European ground-based optical and infrared astronomy. Its high spatial resolution (16 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope) and large photon-collecting area (13 times more light than the largest optical telescopes existing today) will allow scientific breakthroughs in virtually all areas of astronomy, from our own solar system to the edge of the Universe. Active participation in the ELT is a top priority in the Strategic Plan for Astronomy in the Netherlands.
In December 2014 the ESO Council approved Phase-1 of the construction of the ELT requiring 1040 M€. The first stone ceremony for the telescope was in May 2017. Construction of the ELT Dome Foundations has started in September 2019. The telescope will be located on Cerro Armazones, about 20 km from ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Northern Chile. Its operations start around 2025. The telescope, its infrastructure, and operations are funded by ESO from the contributions by its member states, with contributions according to GDP. The Netherlands is a ~4.5% partner; the annual ESO subscriptions are provided by the Ministry of OCW.
NOVA has been selected as lead institution for the Mid-infrared ELT Imager and Spectrometer (METIS), which is one of the three first generation science instruments on the ELT. METIS is a general purpose instrument for infrared astronomy, operating in the 3–19 μm wavelength range and providing diffraction-limited imaging, coronagraphy, low resolution slit spectroscopy and high resolution (R~100,000) integral field spectroscopy. Mid-infrared observations allow astronomers to peer deeply into cool and dust-obscured regions, where most stars and planets form and live, in our and other galaxies. METIS is expected to have first light on the telescope in 2026 followed by a commissioning phase.
NOVA is also carrying out R&D for the future generations of ELT instrumentation, in particular the multi-object optical/near-IR spectrometer MOSAIC and the high-contrast imager EPICS.